Reviews • Rating: NC-17
Summary: There was no body to bury. There was no funeral. There was nothing but the three rules and the knowledge that a thousand years of torment was nothing compared to a world without her in it. Spike embarks on a journey through the Gates of Hell to rescue the one he loves, but in order to save her, he must risk losing himself.
When he stared, he could almost see her. Jagged glass in hand, her skin bloodied, tears scalding down her cheeks as she carved into the walls. More than just a snapshot in his head or an image that plagued him long after day had rolled into night, it was as though the shadows themselves came to life. As though Buffy assumed form outside her body, captured in a loop and cursed to repeat her actions over and over again until consciousness and flesh were reunited.
Spike sighed heavily. The scribbling blurred into nothing the longer he stared.
“What are you trying to tell me, pet?” he murmured, gently brushing hair away from Buffy’s eyes. She had fallen asleep in ten minutes, which he found amusing even if he wasn’t surprised. After centuries without human contact, two orgasms in one day would do a lot to tire anyone out…even someone with the strength and durability of a slayer.
The quiet was nice. Holding Buffy to his chest, listening to the steady rhythm of her heart beating against him, her soft breaths rolling over his skin…drinking in all the things he’d yearned for, and hoping with everything he was that she would be herself when her eyes opened again. It wouldn’t happen; it was too soon and he hadn’t done nearly enough to rescue her from her private prison. But for the moment, at least, he could pretend. Pretend she was sleeping off hours of rampant love-making, where her eyes were locked with his, where she knew who he was, and where she held him to her breasts as she whispered how much she loved him.
It was the fantasy. A fantasy he’d entertained longer than he remembered. A fantasy that rendered the image he’d constructed for himself nothing but a fancy costume.
Spike smiled, shaking his head. Another random bolt of normalcy, just when he didn’t think he would feel remotely normal again. They always struck when he was least expecting it. He didn’t figure he’d cared a damn about his reputation in…well, centuries. Loving the Slayer had made every other thing he’d ever considered important obsolete in comparison.
A long, tired sigh fell off his weary shoulders.
There was a long road ahead. A long, lonely road. The loneliest of all roads. The road he traveled with the woman he loved, but still remained alone. Buffy wasn’t with him. Buffy was still far away.
He still had to find her.
Something hard punched his shoulder, thrusting him out of a dreamless sleep. It took a few bleary-eyed moments to recall where he was, but by the time memory had caught up with consciousness, his eyes were consumed with Buffy’s terror-stricken face.
“What?” he demanded, bolting up. “Buffy, pet, what—”
The second he spoke, her face fell in warm relief. It wasn’t until she patted him, until he noticed where her hand rested, that realization dawned.
And fuck, did it dawn.
“Oh, Buffy,” Spike murmured, tension dropping from his shoulders. “You won’t feel anything there. It doesn’t beat. It’ll never beat…but I’m here, see?” He took her free hand and pressed it against his cheek, his thumb rubbing circles into her skin. “I’m jus’ fine. It’s just this…vamps don’t have heartbeats. When the demon takes us, it takes everything. Pulse, heart, soul and all.”
His words had lost her interest; Buffy’s concern faded entirely in favor of fascination. Her hand remained against his chest, fingers flexing curiously, her brow furrowed as though she thought she could find a beat if she looked hard enough. Whatever futile explanation waited poised on his lips fell away completely in favor of adoration—the same fuzzy feeling that had warmed his long-dead insides over the past couple days as he walked alongside her in her journey of self-discovery. She was learning everything over again, and he got to learn it with her.
“Think that’s something, do you?” he asked, capturing her chin and directing her gaze upward. “Watch this.”
And, without ceremony, he allowed his fangs to descend.
The reaction wasn’t entirely what he expected. Buffy roared a gasp, her eyes widening with terrified alarm before evolving into something else entirely. Something foreign. Something he’d never before experienced. The sort look he’d seen on old-timers’ faces as they reflected on the good ole days with a haze only nostalgia could provide; like looking through a catalogue for a forgotten novel where the plot was crystal clear but the title was long forgotten. Buffy remembered the song but not the lyrics; she stared through eyes that recognized without knowing how or why. It was humbling and uncomfortable all at once; there was no way to react to an emotion he’d never confronted. She stared and stared, peeling away layers he hadn’t known existed until there was nothing to do but look away.
Her hand stopped him and every molecule in his body froze.
Her trembling fingers explored his ridges, her lips forming words her voice couldn’t find. And he was helpless to do anything but watch.
She knew this but she didn’t know how. She knew him. She knew…
“You remembering, kitten?” Spike whispered, closing a hand around her wrist. He’d forgotten how his voice thickened when maneuvering through fangs. “Any of this trigger anything?”
She must have understood that particular question, for immediately her face fell away in shame.
“Oh, sweetheart, don’t—” He sighed and shook his head, the bones in his face falling back to his human mask. “It’s not your fault. Don’t ever think I’m upset with you for not knowing, yeah? There’s no reason you should remember anything just yet. Figure I’m lucky jus’ to have you like this. For as long as I begged the sodding Powers to let me make it this far, I’m just thankful to have you with me.”
There was a look in her eyes that made him believe she comprehended more than she realized, for when she nodded, it was in understanding rather than reaction. He didn’t know how he knew but he didn’t question it. Just as he wouldn’t question the soft smile that stretched her mouth or the sudden spark of inspiration that brightened her face. Before he could blink, Buffy was on her feet and pulling him along with her.
She shook her head, pressed a finger to her coy, grinning lips and motioned for him to follow her.
And Spike, ever her slave, was helpless to do anything but obey.
It took realizing that his eyes were fixated on her bronzed, luscious ass to grasp that she had stepped outside without wearing a stitch of clothing. In a blink, Spike stripped off the shirt he’d slept in and drape it over her head before her bouncing breasts gave his cock ideas it didn’t need.
“You’re gonna drive me outta my mind,” he told her. “Can’t be good. Can’t be wicked. Can’t be a bloody saint for you, sweetheart. It’s been three hundred years, an’ you know how I feel.”
His words were wasted; as she had the day before, Buffy was entertaining herself with his oversized sleeves.
“At least you did,” Spike continued. “You knew how I felt before you went in. Don’t expect you to remember it, but the way you looked on those stairs. You understood me, even if you didn’t want to. You believed me in the end.”
Buffy stifled a laugh. A thread along the hem had come loose and was dancing a ticklish path across her thigh.
“Well,” he said with finality, kissing her cheek. No sense trying to get her to see what he couldn’t explain. He was her caregiver, and he’d be happy for it. No matter how difficult it became, or how often she flaunted her body in front of him. The night before had given him perspective, and there were certain things he would no longer fight. Buffy needed touch, and he was going to give it to her whenever she asked…but only if she asked. He wouldn’t deny her what she needed, nor would he take for himself. It was the only way to placate the conscience that shouldn’t exist and give the warring devils in his head something over which to agree.
For now, he had his definitions in line. Touching Buffy was all right just so long as she wanted it. Just so long as she initiated it. Touching Buffy because he wanted it was out of the question. At least for now. Until she remembered.
If she remembered.
“You’re beautiful,” he whispered, kissing her cheek. She tasted so sweet. “Beautiful.”
Buffy flushed against his skin, pulling back to gift him with a bright smile. Every nerve in his body warmed.
“What’s this you wanted to show me, then?” Spike asked, voice strained. It was better to keep his mind on the task at hand.
And again, as though she understood, Buffy immediately ceased playing with the sleeves and turned on her heel to continue on her way, her steps full of spring and her ass just barely visible with every bounce.
Spike groaned inwardly. Sometimes not seeing forbidden fruit was the greater of two evils. It allowed one’s imagination to run rampant. And fuck, wasn’t life a bloody hoot? He remembered Drusilla dancing naked under the stars in a town full of churchgoers and it not bothering him a lick. Give him Buffy in a deserted town that her own fears had concocted, and suddenly he was opposed to indecent exposure.
Well, that wasn’t quite right, but it was close enough. He didn’t much care if Buffy flashed her goodies all over the place, just so long as she knew what she was doing…and what it was doing to him. In this state she hadn’t a sodding clue; even if she did, she was still much too childlike to mean anything more than purely instinctive sexual curiosity. It was the reason she’d looked at him quizzically but hadn’t fought when he pulled his shirt over her body, the same reason she smiled when he’d kissed her cheek. She knew they were something to each other without knowing what, or even understanding how such relationships worked.
A bloody delight, she was. In whatever incarnation, Buffy was his sunshine.
It didn’t occur to him that he knew the path they traveled until the smell was thick and heavy in the air, and even then it took seeing the crimson waves for the significance of her offering to settle in. Where she’d brought him. Where she’d known to bring him without knowing anything at all.
She just smiled at him expectantly, rocking slightly on her heels.
Perhaps it was innate. Perhaps there were certain things one simply knew. It had been a long time since Spike gave a fig about philosophy—the study itself was more a William thing, though try as he might to bury the shadows of his human past, a few things from the finer world had trailed him unhappily in the years that followed his death. He remembered a theory that people were born with infinite knowledge, locked away in the mysterious unused portion of the brain. There wasn’t such a thing as the unknown—knowledge just had to be relearned.
Whether or not there was truth to philosophy, he didn’t know. Philosophy was funny that way. One bloke spurs out a theory and another contradicts it with something that sounds just as probable if padded with the right wording. However, in watching Buffy, it seemed there almost had to be some truth to the belief. To the notion that she already knew everything she had forgotten. There was no other way she could have known to bring him here. No other way the notion would have crept into her head. As a slayer, identifying vampires would be second nature, especially when flashed a pair of fangs. Perhaps seeing Spike’s incisors had triggered something she couldn’t yet reconcile with her reality—he didn’t know. All he knew was Buffy had led him directly to the place his demon had been craving.
The river. The long, delicious, deep red river. The scent alone made his stomach ache and his fangs tingle. Spike stared at the rolling waves of red for a long, frozen moment before turning to meet Buffy’s achingly hopeful eyes.
God, and then he understood. This was her present to him, her gratitude in the form of something for which he could never ask and wouldn’t take with her at his side…unless it was like this. Unless she was with him and comprehended what he needed. And she did. In ways he couldn’t grasp, Buffy knew exactly what he needed, and this was her offering. Something she wanted him to have in return for all he had given her. Something she wanted to give him.
The uncarved block. She understood because she knew what she was doing, she knew what he was, even if her advanced thought hadn’t developed. She knew him well enough to know what he needed.
She knew he was a vampire and she didn’t care. At least for the moment, she didn’t care.
“Thank you,” Spike said, smiling. “Jus’ what the doctor ordered, pet. Another day an’ I would’ve eaten my own bloody arm.”
The way her face brightened could have warmed the earth.
He’d forgotten this feeling.
When he’d fallen from the cavern, the blood he’d consumed had been for survival above all else. It had been delicious—Christ, the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted, but even with only two days between him and that momentous plunge, the event stood in his memory as one of redefinition rather than satisfaction. His previously dead limbs surging with life his body had forgotten, thriving on energy that would have killed him had he been anything less than what he was. It hadn’t been about the pleasure of eating; it had been about living.
It wasn’t that way now. Warthog blood had sustained him, but the blood in the river was human. Human blood to complete Buffy’s nightmare. Her curse was his salvation, and though he hated what it had done to her, at the moment, he couldn’t be more thankful. He felt pumped and alive in ways beyond his experience. It was a gunshot through the dark, the way it all came flooding back. Restless energy. Strength beyond imagine. The need for sport. The need for fun. The need for violence. God, he hadn’t had a good brawl in ages. His limbs hadn’t had the strength to lift, much less throw in for a tumble. He needed it now like he never had before. Never. Not even after being handicapped by a government chip.
He remembered the chip. The chip had harnessed him, chained him, put a muzzle over his fangs and kept him leashed. Discovering demons were fair game had been a saving grace. He’d spiraled into a rediscovered life; he’d been reborn.
Whatever he felt now was beyond rebirth, and God, he wanted to share it. Share it the only way he knew how.
Share it in a way that would make them both feel like themselves.
“Oi,” Spike said suddenly. “Slayer.”
It was the blood rush; it had to be the blood rush, though he could honestly say it seemed like a good idea at the time. Buffy had been quiet since leaving the river, though there was no mistaking the way her eyes widened or her pulse quickened the second his words hit the air. She almost had time to block the mad punch he sent flying toward her face…almost, but not quite. The familiar smack of flesh striking flesh filled the horrified silence between them, accented with a surprised grunt and completed with Buffy’s abrupt collapse. The rush faded just as quickly, reality returning with an ugly sneer. Spike’s eyes went wide and every molecule in his body froze.
Well, almost every molecule. The nerves attached to his legs knew exactly what to do.
“Oh God,” he muttered, falling to his knees at her side. “Oh God…Buffy! Buffy, Christ, pet, I’m so sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t…it’s the blood, yeah? Made my brain short-circuit. I didn’t think, I’m so sor—”
Buffy’s head flipped up and he found himself capsized under a stare icy enough to freeze the ground beneath his feet.
Her fist smashed into his cheekbone, and the next thing he knew, he was airborne and barreling into the brick wall of a vacant warehouse. The world changed again in an explosion of pain; pain in a category all on its own; pain he hadn’t felt in generations. Pain that rocketed through every corner of his body.
It was fantastic.
“Fuck yeah!” Spike growled, rolling onto his feet. “That’s the ticket, there, Slayer. Give it to me.”
She seemed willing to oblige. Her eyes were bright with fire, her chest heaving breaths too large for her small body, but there was resilience in her form he’d nearly forgotten. For the first time in a long time, the girl was gone. All was left was the warrior.
“You remember this, don’t you?” he demanded, fists flying upward. “The dance? Feels right. Familiar. Haven’t had a good thrash in ages, I’d wager. No willing partner. No vamps to slay. Jus’ bloody pigs, and fuck knows they don’t put up a fight. You know this, love. Now give it to me. Give it to me!”
The lady needed no encouragement. Each move she made was a piece of living art. She bent. She twirled. She kicked. She threw punches. She poured herself into every twist, and for a brilliant moment, he saw her as she always had been. It was as though nothing had changed. They were back in Sunnydale, battling on the streets, in the cemetery, duking it out over who-knows-what. Trading blows, catching each other’s tosses with the ease of old friends who knew every word in a well-rehearsed quarrel.
Buffy knew this as well as she knew anything. She was, at her root element, the Slayer.
“Can’t remember the last time we had it out like this, can you?” Spike demanded, jumping eagerly from one place to the other. “Maybe that time over the gem, yeah? Right before those bloody soldier boys shoved that piece of tin up my noggin.” He ducked a swing to the head and countered with a fierce blow to her gut. Her wheeze of pain barely registered. “Think that was what I missed most about bein’ strapped in. Made a good play of it bein’ for the sport, but dancing with you, pet? Taking that away was the kicker. God, how I’ve missed this.”
Buffy growled and seized him by the collar.
“That’s it!” Spike encouraged, even as the ground beneath his feet vanished. “Now give us a good throw, eh?”
She shrugged and the next thing he knew, his body had shattered hard against an exterior wall. Pain resurged, but without the thrill of novelty it had provided mere seconds ago. This was, too, a feeling he remembered—one of sore muscles meeting with angry fists behind a force that didn’t know the meaning of fatigue.
It hurt like a bitch, but the hurt was welcome.
“Always with the walls,” he moaned, his head rolling upward. “That move was a favorite of yours.”
She offered another shrug, this one reading: You asked for it, buddy.
That was a point he had to concede.
All right, Spike. The fire in her eyes was too vivid to be from exercise alone, and it wasn’t hard to see why. He’d attacked her without provocation, and though she might know more than she understood, she had no context in which to place a fight. This whole excursion was likely a path in the wrong direction, but then there was no telling if she was truly brassed off or just playing with him. No way to know whether or not she understood the first punch hadn’t been malicious. And while he knew he should stop, the larger part of him didn’t want to over-think it. This was the first thing in years that had felt even somewhat normal. More than an instant or a surge—he felt like himself in ways he hadn’t in lifetimes. If the price was calming the beast later, so be it. It was worth it.
It took a few seconds for the world to stop spinning. “Fuck me, but you haven’t lost your touch, have you?” Spike drawled, slowly climbing to his feet. “Like old times, eh, love? But then you haven’t gone for the nose yet.”
Her eyes flickered. It was brief but very present, and though it faded before he had time to evaluate it, he knew it had to mean something.
“Or yapped my ears off with your li’l quips,” Spike prodded. “Given me one of your brilliantly empty threats. ‘If you’re lying, I’ll stake you good and proper,’ that sort of rubbish. Might as well tell you now, you never had me worried. Figured I’d let you think I was on your leash, just to be friendly-like, but yeah, I always knew the truth. Had too much of a soft-spot for your Spike, didn’t you? At least I was good enough to be used as your punching bag whenever muck-for-brains was too sore to don the padding. Then again,” he added with a grin, “I always liked it when you hit me.”
Right on cue, Buffy raised her fist, but Spike was there to catch her this time. “Ah, ah, ah,” he murmured, hand closing around her wrist. “Think that’s enough for today. Didn’t mean to get all…just brought back some fond memories, is all. Wouldn’t wanna waste all this strength on taking you out, now would I?”
There was a pause. Her eyes remained slanted and her expression dubious for a long, lingering minute, and then she seemed to understand.
“There, now, love,” he murmured, thumb softly caressing her inner wrist. “Wasn’t that fun?”
Another long beat passed between them. She gave him no ground.
And he knew her better than that. Spike’s eyes narrowed. “Buffy…”
Yes. That was it. There was no hiding from him now. Her façade of anger melted without struggle. She knew something had changed—they both did—even if what remained ambiguous. He’d unlocked a part of her they’d both nearly forgotten, a part essential to who she was.
A part without which she could not find herself.
Buffy knew it. She had to know it. For in seconds, the frown was gone completely, a warm smile in its place.
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